CD Reviews | CTD (Briefly Noted) | JFL (Dip Your Ears) | DVD Reviews


New Mahler Cycle from Frankfurt

available at Amazon
G.Mahler, Symphonies 1 & 2,
P.Järvi / Frankfurt RSO
Unitel / c-major

Paavo Järvi and the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra (in Germany the hr-Sinfonieorchesters, "hr" standing for "Hesse Radio"), performed and recorded the Mahler Symphonies at the Rheingau Musik Festival between 2007 and 2013. They were recorded in three different venues, the Basilika of the Eberbach Abbey, the concert hall of the Kurhaus (now named Friedrich-von-Thiersch-Saal) and the Old Opera, the home of the Frankfurt RSO.

The orchestra isn't new to recording Mahler; it has recorded the complete works (but with a performing version of the 10th, whereas this set will only include the Adagio) for Denon in the 80s under Eliahu Inbal. (Now on Brilliant.) Three releases of five are now out in Europe, in the US, only the first DVD/Blu-ray seems out at this point.

Paavo Järvi’s previously recorded Mahler includes SymphonyNo.2 and Four Short Movements. (Review here). His father, Neeme Järvi, of course, has recorded most (but not all) of Mahler. Here are these recordings (Nos. 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 on Chandos, 8 on BIS, 2 and Das Lied von der Erde on DVD/Vai)
collected in one place. (Not that they ever made much of a splash, except perhaps the oddly wonderful Eighth, which we have reviewed here.


Paavo Järvi's Beethoven: The Eroica for Our Age

First published in June of 2009

Ionarts' Choice Recording
available at Amazon
Lv.Beethoven, Symphonies 3 & 8,
P.Järvi / German Chamber Philharmonic Bremen

Good thing that art, and especially music, defies mundane economics. If recordings of Eroica Symphonies were cars, we’d speak of an oversaturation of the market, excess capacity, and the need to reduce the supply sharply back to healthy levels. Governments would be falling over themselves to promote their Symphony producers over foreign ones, or perhaps legislating that the Eroica is too big and time consuming a symphony anyway, and mandate that we all listen to Beethoven’s Symphony No.1, or Langgaard’s 15th and 16th, instead. Good thing it ain’t so… although that means missing out on the scrappage bonus where we would turn in our old, big bold Eroicas and get newer, leaner ones in return.

As it turns out, these new, leaner Eroicas are well worth getting . Happily, no scrappage bonus is required; we can get them and keep our Kleiber (Erich) and Kletzki and Böhm and even Bernstein. The lean one under review here isn’t all that new anymore and if I’ve been tardy in writing about it, it’s only because I wasn’t sure my words could do it justice. Meticulous cross-comparison ensued in trying to get it all right and in the end I had nothing but papers with scribbled bar numbers (music, not liquor), tempo comparisons, and exclamation points.

available at Amazon L.v.B, Sys 1 & 5, P.Järvi / Dt.ChPh Bremen

UK | DE | FR

available at Amazon L.v.B, Sys 2 & 6, P.Järvi / Dt.ChPh Bremen

UK | DE | FR

available at Amazon L.v.B, Sys 4 & 7, P.Järvi / Dt.ChPh Bremen

UK | DE | FR

available at Amazon L.v.B, Sy 9, P.Järvi / Dt.ChPh Bremen

UK | DE | FR

available at Amazon L.v.B, Overtures, P.Järvi / Dt.ChPh Bremen

UK | DE | FR
Appropriately I’m scrapping all ­that to simply say it how it is: Paavo Järvi’s disc with the Third Symphony of Beethoven (and a nearly equally zany Eighth) performed by the German Chamber Philharmonic of Bremen is stunning. One of those recordings that, after having listened to something like four dozen other Eroicas, you didn’t think would come along. If the phrase “blow your socks off” ever made sense, it does here. This is a brisk, bold, in your face performance. Järvi smacks the symphony onto your ears with a force that makes Osmo Vänskä’s take (BIS) sound almost tame. And my hitherto favorite Gardiner (Archiv|Cycle), the only one to take all the repeats and still clock in below Järvi (45:03 to 44:29), ends up sounding rather breezy, as if Gardiner didn’t really mean to speed. Using a 28-player string section (8-7-5-5-3), Järvi’s Chamber Orchestra sounds to be in complete control of the work, too, whereas Gardiner’s HIP forces (tuned lower by a half step, give or take a few Herz of wiggle-room) sound more authentically (if not necessarily more appropriately) challenged.

Comparisons are inevitable, especially with three more SACDs of the same symphony appearing in a short span of time and with approaches to the music that, at least superficially, are similar: Vänskä, Andrew Manze (Harmonia Mundi) and Philippe Herreweghe (Pentatone). But if you expect the same lean, Järviesque, violent tenacity from Manze or Herreweghe (perhaps amplified by their HIP gene), you are in for a surprise. If Järvi slaps, Manze and Herreweghe pat. And gently at that. Listened to after getting ready and riled with the Bremen band so bent on speed and creative mayhem, the gentleness comes as a sore disappointment, at least at first.

Taken on his own merits, Manze (50:24) excels especially in the pleading, soaring moments he builds from his rather lyrical approach. The fourth movement is worth the investment in Manze’s disc alone. [Aside, it’s very appropriately coupled with the “Creatures of Prometheus” ballet music finale, revolving around the same topic (Napoleon) and melody (used again in the Eroica’s finale).] The Helsingborg Symphony Orchestra with its 40 string players (11-10-7-7-5) makes as fine a noise as Herreweghe’s Royal Flemish Philharmonic (47:20), another modern, but historically informed orchestra (natural trumpets and timpani, but not, for example horns—and playing at 440Hz).

Somewhere at this point of the trajectory from Järvi towards bigger orchestras and more modest tempos, Vänskä comes in  whose cycle—foremost his genial Fourth— quickly became my new favorite as it was released. He, too, uses a considerably larger orchestra than Järvi. He consistently takes a little more time and uses it to punch a little harder than the Estonian Järvi. For those who want more meat on their Eroica-bones but still tight and tough excitement, Vänskä’s their man. Comparing the two would be like matching early Sugar Ray Leonard (Welterweight Järvi) against Michael Spinks or early Cassius Clay (Light heavyweight Vänskä). And, once we reach Vänskä, we might realize that the early Karajan (1963, DG) is right up there, tempo- and energy-wise. No wonder people were so astonished by Herbie
’s 1960’s Beethoven cycle. 

Thus working my way ‘backwards’ (mainly in terms of tempo, not just recording dates) from Järvi’s whirlwind performance, I could probably favorably acquaint myself with the (lovely, actually) Frans Brüggen Eroica (Philips|Cycle) which, though HIP, rivals not Gardiner but Barenboim in tempos (a shade under 50 minutes, but not including all repeats). It shows that you can wean yourself of the excitement that speed necessarily brings, but only gradually. That every version of this symphony has something offer isn’t too surprising: It’s too great a piece of music for any interpretation not to. Force me to name favorites among these here and I will yield Järvi ahead of Vänskä and then Manze, because ultimately it’s the excitement I crave most.

But since the Eroica-economy is not a zero sum game, I ask to be left dabbling happily in the multitudes, enjoying each one, depending on my mood. All of which goes to show that many ways lead to Rome. But only Järvi takes a motorcycle.

Paavo Järvi's recording of Symphonies 2 & 6 made the "Best of 2009 Almost" List.

Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Symphony No. 3 in E flat major Op. 55 Eroica (1803) [45:03]
Symphony No. 8 in F minor Op. 93 (1812) [24:08]
German Chamber Philharmonic Bremen / Paavo Järvi
rec. August 2005, Bremen
RCA 713066 [79:11]

Blomstedt and Ax Return to NSO

available at Amazon
Beethoven, Symphonies, Staatskapelle Dresden, H. Blomstedt
(box set, Brilliant Classics)
Most orchestras do well to offer some audience favorites now and again. This week's program from the National Symphony Orchestra, devoted to two major works of Beethoven, had that feel, and the Kennedy Center Concert Hall was well filled in response. The program featured two classical music veterans, with Herbert Blomstedt, born in Massachusetts but raised in Sweden, returning to the podium for the first time since his last appearance with the NSO in 2012. It was a good idea to pair him with pianist Emanuel Ax, as soloist in Beethoven's third piano concerto, a composer with whom he has a way, last heard in the second concerto with the NSO in 2010 (if not so much Chopin 2 in 2013).

As he did with the second concerto, Ax's approach was mostly ruminative, with a tempo choice on the slow side for the Allegro con brio marking and an emphasis on the soft and mysterious, especially in the development section, kept mostly sotto voce in both orchestra and keyboard. This put the spotlight on the slow movement, taken not too Largo but with enough rhythmic freedom that it had the feel of something quasi-improvised, a somewhat understated, at times almost off-the-cuff sound. The rondo finale was brisk enough to be perky fun, with a nice filigree touch from Ax in the chromatic runs. The comparison with the last time this work featured on an NSO concert, with Christoph Eschenbach and Lang Lang in 2012, was a reminder that faster is not always better. Perhaps taking advantage of the overture-less program, a little shorter than normal, Ax offered a most welcome encore, Brahms's A major intermezzo (op. 118, no. 2), where again simplicity reigned supreme, to most musical effect.

Other Reviews:

Anne Midgette, Herbert Blomstedt illuminates Beethoven, joyously, with the NSO (Washington Post, February 27)
The last time that the NSO played Beethoven's third symphony was also in 2012, with Christoph Eschenbach conducting. Blomstedt instead seemed to have taken some ideas from conductor Andrew Manze, in his historical study of the Eroica. Tempo choices were fast, with little fluctuation, and articulations crisp, although the power of modern instruments put some of the balances off here and there, especially causing some problems with woodwind lines being covered. Blomstedt once told Michael Steinberg, in a 1985 interview, that "a concert for me is a holy moment." A devout Seventh-Day Adventist, he makes an exception to his normal Sabbath observance to conduct on Friday evening and Saturday for that reason. Those who heard this concert could hardly avoid the sense of communion achieved by Blomstedt's earnest approach.

This concert repeats today and Saturday.


Second Opinion: 'Dialogues of the Carmelites'

Many thanks to Robert R. Reilly for this review from the Kennedy Center.

Dialogues of the Carmelites, Washington National Opera, 2015 (photo by Scott Suchman)

On the evening of Monday, February 23, I attended the second performance of Washington National Opera's production of Francis Poulenc’s Dialogues of the Carmelites at the Kennedy Center. This is an opera I have long loved, but never seen on stage. My expectations were high, and they were largely met. (See Charles's review of the production's opening night.)

First of all, one must explain the challenge of this somewhat difficult work. Most of the action is interior in a spiritual sense. It is very difficult to dramatize an inner struggle of the soul, but this is what Poulenc attempted and succeeded at portraying.

It’s not as if the context of the story lacks drama. It is all the more gripping because it is based upon the true history of the French Revolution. In 1794, the revolutionary prayer police caught a group of Carmelite nuns from Compiègne still secretly practicing their vows. They had been expelled from their convent two years earlier. Declared enemies of the state, the sisters were marched to the scaffold and guillotined on July 17, 1794. Upon this episode, George Bernanos, the famous French novelist, based his only screenplay. After his death, Bernanos’s literary executor fashioned it into a successful play. Poulenc took a version of the text as the libretto for his opera.

Bernanos and Poulenc avoid the melodrama and typical verismo hysterics that normally would be associated with an opera on a subject such as this. This translates into a relatively conservative, though rich operatic style that is part recitative and part lyrical. The opera is set without arias or “big numbers.” Poulenc does not deploy his full orchestral resources, familiar to those who know the Stabat Mater or the Gloria, until the very end, at the scaffold scene, when he does so to glorious effect. At whatever volume, the music is charged with the same level of energy as its spiritual subject.

Bernanos and Poulenc seek neither to sensationalize nor sentimentalize the events of the Revolution. Those events are depicted only insofar as they impinge on the lives of the nuns and serve only as background to their interior spiritual drama, which is the real subject of the opera. One must praise the direction of Francesca Zambello for staying true to their intentions. The stage direction remained focused and never distracted from the inner action. In fact, it enhanced it. I was particularly impressed at how restrained Zambello kept the crowd scenes, when a more indulgent director would have succumbed to the opportunity for raucous spectacle.

The opera aims at a high level of spiritual realism and achieves it with profound psychological and spiritual complexity. Fear, faith, death, and providence are the subjects of this opera. The story revolves around Blanche de la Force, who, out of her fears of both life and death, enters the convent with an idealized notion of the joys of detachment. The prioress warns her: “What does it avail a nun to be detached from everything if she is not also set free from herself — that is to say, from her own detachment?” Sister Blanche soon witnesses the agonizing death of the prioress, who exclaims: “God has become a shadow.... I have been thinking of death each day of my life, and now it does not help me at all.” Moments before death, she foresees the desecration of the chapel and cries out, “God has abandoned us!” The shocked Sister Marie, who attends her, keeps the other sisters out of range so they will not be scandalized.

The prioress’s difficult death disturbs the community, except for young Sister Constance, who suggests, somewhat blithely, “At 59, is it not high time to die?” Yet it is also Sister Constance who grasps how providential the difficult death may be. She proposes to the puzzled Blanche that the troubled death of the prioress belonged to someone else: “One would say that in giving her this kind of death, our good Lord had made an error; as in a cloakroom they give you one coat for another.” She suggests that, because of this, someone who least expects it will be surprised by how easy death is. Constance further upsets Blanche by telling her that they will die young together. Blanche spends the rest of the opera resisting this notion. When her own death approaches in the last act, after the nuns have taken the vow of martyrdom, Blanche flees in terror. Only at the last moment, when the guillotine has begun to fall, does Blanche reappear “incredibly calm” to take her place by her sisters. They die singing the Salve Regina. Blanche joyfully sings the four last verses from the Veni Creator Spiritus as she submits to the blade.

One could easily argue that Blanche’s last-minute arrival at the scaffold, composed and ready to die, is, dramaturgically speaking, a deus ex machina. How is it that she suddenly receives the grace for her peaceful, though violent, death? It is not a development we observe. It simply happens. Yet, in this case, the deus ex machina adds to, rather than detracts from, the drama of the work because it operates on the same plane of grace that is the premise of the whole work. The prioress’s deathbed cry that God had abandoned her echoed Christ’s cry from the cross. Yet, mysteriously, Christ’s cry was salvific. What of the prioress’s ugly death? Did it share in that salvific work? How? The working out of this mystery and the spiritual tensions within it drive the opera. Providentially, the prioress’s agonizing death in a peaceful setting makes possible Blanche’s peaceful death in an agonized setting.

From this brief summary, one can easily see that the key roles are those of Madame de Croissy, the Old Prioress, and Blanche de la Force. American mezzo-soprano Dolora Zajick, who actually sings the Divine Office with the Carmelite Sisters of Reno when she is at home, did an excellent job vocally and dramatically as the prioress. Her agonizing death scene was every bit as disturbing and repugnant as it needed to be to give force to the rest of the opera. As Blanche, Canadian soprano Layla Claire had exactly the right kind of fragility and vulnerability to make Blanche’s struggle real, with a warm and tender voice suited to the part. American soprano Ashley Emerson was suitably impish and impulsive as Sister Constance, and played the perfect foil to Blanche. Leah Crocetto as Madame Lidoine and Elizabeth Bishop as Mother Marie were both convincing. The two main male roles were sung with distinction by American bass-baritone Alan Held as the Marquis de la Force, Blanche’s father, and tenor Shawn Mathey as the Chevalier de la Force, Blanche’s brother.

Mr. Mathey was also the only singer who sang with sufficient diction that his words could be understood without looking at the supertitles. I am not sure that the other singers are entirely at fault in this matter. Poulenc wrote the opera to a French libretto, and the English translation does not scan musically as well as the French. My bet would be that there is at least a slight expansion factor – that the English libretto has more words in it than the French – thus requiring the singers to get through the words faster. In any case, Mr. Mathey was crystal-clear. Overall, I would have preferred to hear the opera in French, though that would have been against the wishes of Poulenc, who thought audiences should be able to hear it in their own language.

The large curved-wall sets were economical and I thought, at first, crude. But as things proceeded, I saw how much set designer Hildegard Bechtler was able to get out of a little. For instance, in the nuns’ chapel against a somewhat bland curved wall, what looks like a wooden bas-relief of Virgin and Child, with two pairs of candles below it, is lowered. That was just enough to break the austerity of the setting and communicate the purpose of the space. The only other visual reference I have for this opera is from a DVD of the Netherlands Opera Amsterdam production at La Scala, under Riccardo Muti. In it, the huge dark space of the stage was certainly menacing, but it was allowed to swallow the intimate drama. The WNO production, sets, and staging avoided this potential pitfall, and attention remained where it needed to be. I was also very grateful for the traditional costumes, so capably rendered by Claudie Gastine. One’s attention was never diverted by trying to figure out what the anachronisms were supposed to mean, because there weren’t any.

The Washington National Opera Orchestra, under Canadian conductor Antony Walker, gave a spirited performance, but was too often out of balance with the singers, who were more than occasionally swamped. This will, no doubt, be ironed out in future performances.

The otherwise excellent notes in the Playbill program failed to mention that the 16 good sisters of Compiègne were beatified by Pope Pius X in 1907.

This production continues through March 10. One ought not to miss this opportunity to see a production so close to the intentions of its composer and librettist.


Renée Fleming in Recital

The news about Renée Fleming these days is less about the Metropolitan Opera season and more about her upcoming turn on Broadway. With the Met set to celebrate the 25th anniversary of her debut on their stage in 2016, Fleming's career may have reached its peak. The beloved American soprano is on a recital tour at the moment, with Russian pianist Olga Kern, and the duo made a stop on Monday evening at the Kennedy Center Concert Hall, presented by Washington Performing Arts, who also presented Fleming's last recital here in 2011.

With the selections that suited her, especially in the sets of songs by Rachmaninoff and Richard Strauss, Fleming could still use her voice to exhilarating effect, reaching thrilling heights in Rachmaninoff's A Dream and Spring Waters and caressing the melody tenderly in Strauss's Meinem Kind and Liebeshymnus. Partnering with Kern, a gold medal winner at the Van Cliburn Competition in 2001, was a brilliant move, as it was the pianist who truly animated many of these songs. The often daunting accompaniments of the Rachmaninoff songs, in particular, were supple clay in Kern's hands, with subtle voicings in In the Silence of the Mysterious Night, charming wrong-note accents in The Waterlily, and an uncanny evocation of a babbling brook in Strauss's The Little Brook -- not to mention the delightful lagniappe of the piano transcription of Rachmaninoff's Siren (Lilacs) (op. 21/5). Ending with Strauss, still one of Fleming's greatest strengths as shown in last year's Der Rosenkavalier with the National Symphony Orchestra, was the right choice.

Other Reviews:

Anne Midgette, Mastering the art of entertainment: Renée Fleming in recital (Washington Post, February 24)

Tim Smith, The art of song, the art of Renée Fleming (Baltimore Sun, February 25)

Rashod Ollison, Renee Fleming whimsical, exhilarating in performance (The Virginian-Pilot, February 20)
At the same time, many things went awry in this recital. Fleming's intonation was dicey at the start of the Rachmaninoff set, especially in the perilously high ending of the gorgeous song Ne poy, krasavitsa and the squeezed-out high opening of A Dream. Then there was Schumann's celebrated song cycle Frauenliebe und -leben, which opened the recital on shaky ground indeed. With some text issues in spite of Fleming's use of music for this set, this music felt under-rehearsed and a little taken for granted. Nothing in her grab bag of cutesy vocal tics, the little scoops and sobs, could help create the lightness and simplicity required in these songs. Vocal lines that required a little agility felt logy, and only the songs that allowed her to use a broader, more sustained approach worked well, most beautifully in Süßer Freund, du blickest, taken at a rapturous tempo and with an admirable cranking up of musical intensity, and in the gorgeous low range of Nun hast du mir. The encores, which I predicted with almost 100% accuracy to the friend seated next to me, were true to form: another Strauss song (I picked Morgen, but she went with Cäcilie), Gershwin's Summertime, Frederick Loewe's I Could Have Danced All Night (with audience-pleasing singalong verse), and Puccini's O mio babbino caro.

The next important recital on the Washington Performing Arts season will feature pianist András Schiff (March 15, 4 pm), in the Music Center at Strathmore.


Finally, 'Dialogues of the Carmelites' at WNO

Dolora Zajick (Madame de Croissy), Layla Claire (Blanche de la Force), and cast in Dialogues of the Carmelites,
Washington National Opera, 2015 (photo by Scott Suchman)

Almost ten years ago, I made a wish that Washington National Opera would get around to staging Poulenc's Dialogues des Carmélites. This powerful opera is based on the true story of the Sixteen Blessed Martyrs of Compiègne, a convent of Carmelite nuns who died at the guillotine after the French revolutionaries disbanded their community. The work has been performed in Washington before, by Opera International in 2004 and by Catholic University's Summer Opera before that, but not with the sort of cast marshaled by Washington National Opera, heard on Saturday night in the Kennedy Center Opera House.

Mezzo-soprano Dolora Zajick was a powerhouse Madame de Croissy, the ailing prioress of the community who takes in the naive, somewhat disturbed Blanche de la Force as a novice. Likewise, mezzo-soprano Elizabeth Bishop and soprano Leah Crocetto, the latter in a striking company debut, were equally powerful as Mother Marie of the Incarnation and Madame Lidoine, respectively, the nuns who lead the community after the death of Madame de Croissy. Soprano Ashley Emerson, heard last season as a spirited Papagena, was a tiny dynamo of energy, both physical and vocal, as the flighty Sister Constance. In such company, Canadian soprano Layla Claire, though slender and pretty as the nobleman's daughter turned nun, seemed vocally outclassed as Blanche de la Force. Her voice sort of dissipated at times, and sometimes intonation suffered, possibly related to a slight fragility of tone and fluttering vibrato.

Other Articles:

Anne Midgette, “Carmelites” is too cool, in every sense, in WNO debut (Washington Post, February 23)

Susan Dornady Eisenberg, Dolora Zajick Chats About Her Debut This Week in Dialogues of the Carmelites at Washington National Opera (Huffington Post, February 20)
The supporting cast was generally fine, too, especially the ardent Chevalier de la Force of tenor Shawn Mathey, admired previously in San Francisco and here in Washington, and the curmudgeonly Marquis de la Force of Alan Held. Antony Walker, the talented director of Washington Concert Opera, was a sure presence at the podium, lining up all the musicians of the large orchestra (the performance uses the full version of the score), some splats in the horns aside, and the unusually large cast. Another snow storm kept about one-fourth of the chorus members marooned at home, but the sound of the choral and ensemble numbers, some of the most musically satisfying in the opera, did not suffer too badly. WNO Artistic Director Francesca Zambello generously asked those in the limited audience to come down and fill in the seats toward the front if they wanted to do so, and many did.

Zambello's staging of the opera, originally mounted by the Opéra National de Paris, was austere but effective. After the absurd treatment of the Franciscans in Zambello's production of La forza del destino, I was prepared for the worst in her handling of this story about Carmelite nuns, worry that was entirely misplaced. The costumes were traditional, down to the brown, black, and white habits (designed by Claudie Gastine), and the sets designed by Hildegard Bechtler were looming cast iron curved walls, as menacing and bare as a Richard Serra sculpture. It is true that the stylized approach of the production -- the scaffold makes it look like the nuns are going into a sort of tanning booth -- weakens the opera's power in places, which is hard to justify. While the English translation by Joseph Machlis, approved by the composer, is generally effective, one wished that the supertitles included more than just the first few words of the Latin texts sung, words that were central to the lives of these nuns and, indeed, with resonance for the opera's action.

This production runs through March 10, in the Kennedy Center Opera House.


Dutoit and the Suisse Romande

available at Amazon
V. d'Indy, Symphonie sur un chant montagnard français (inter alia), M. Helmchen, Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, M. Janowski
(PentaTone, 2011)

Charles T. Downey, Geneva orchestra at Kennedy Center shines with Debussy, Stravinsky (Washington Post, February 23)
When Charles Dutoit filled the leadership void at the Philadelphia Orchestra in 2008, he came to Washington for four consecutive years with that ensemble, always to great acclaim. On Saturday afternoon, Washington Performing Arts presented him again, this time with the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, in a blockbuster concert at the Kennedy Center Concert Hall.

The orchestra from Geneva, which last visited Washington in 1989, shone immediately in Debussy’s “Ibéria”... [Continue reading]
Orchestre de la Suisse Romande
With Charles Dutoit (conductor) and Nikolai Lugansky (piano)
Washington Performing Arts
Kennedy Center Concert Hall

Charles Dutoit: NSO 2009

With Philadelphia Orchestra: 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009


Perchance to Stream: Feels Like Home Edition

Here is your regular Sunday selection of links to online audio and online video from the week gone by. After clicking to an audio or video stream, you may need to press the "Play" button to start the broadcast. Some of these streams become unavailable after a few days.

  • Soprano Karina Gauvin and violinist Julien Chauvin perform arias from Handel's Rodelinda, Ariodante, Rinaldo, and Alcina, plus concertos with Le Concert de la loge Olympique. [France Musique]

  • Watch Sophie Karthäuser, Delphine Galou, and Ann Hallenberg in a performance of Handel's Tamerlano, with Christophe Rousset conducting Les Talens Lyriques, recorded in Brussels. [De Munt]

  • The Tallis Scholars, under Peter Phillips, perform at the Oratoire du Louvre with music by John Taverner, Thomas Tallis, Gregorio Allegri, and Arvo Pärt. [France Musique]

  • Mikhail Pletnev leads the Russian National Orchestra in a performance of Rimsky-Korsakov's opera May Night, recorded last September in Moscow. [RTBF]

  • Giuliano Carmignola leads the Orchestre de Chambre de Paris, in concertos by Vivaldi at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées in Paris. [France Musique]

  • Sakari Oramo conducts the BBC Symphony Orchestra in Nielsen's 4th Symphony, Zemlinsky's Maeterlinck Songs (with mezzo-soprano Anne Sofie von Otter), plus Sibelius and Ravel. [BBC3]

  • Maurizio Pollini joins the Lucerne Festival Orchestra and conductor Andris Nelsons for Chopin's first piano concerto, plus the Brahms third symphony. [RTBF]

  • From the Mozart Festival, the chorus Aedes and Le Cercle de l'Harmonie perform music by Mozart at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées, conducted by Jérémie Rhorer. [France Musique]

  • Les Musiciens du Louvre, under Marc Minkowski, perform Mozart concertos at the Mozartwoche in Salzburg. [ORF | Part 2]

  • Ingo Metzmacher leads the ORF RSO Wien in Szymanowski's Stabat Mater, with Aleksandra Kurzak, Ewa Wolak, and Artur Rucinski. [ORF]

  • The Vienna Piano Trio performs music by Mendelssohn and Beethoven. [RTBF]

  • Vaclav Luks leads Collegium 1704 in Zelenka's Requiem Mass and Handel's Dixit Dominus, recorded last September in the St. Maria Magdaelena church in Warsaw. [ORF]

  • Donald Runnicles leads the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra in Beethoven's violin concerto, with Alina Pogostkina as soloist, and music by Sibelius (Finlandia and the seventh symphony. [BBC3]

  • Grand motets by Rameau and Mondonville performed by Les Arts Florissants, recorded last summer at the Proms. [RTBF]
  • Pascal Dusapin celebrates his 60th birthday with the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, conductor Myung-Whun Chung, and violinist Renaud Capuçon at the Philharmonie de Paris, with the violin concerto Aufgang. [France Musique]

  • Stephen Cleobury leads the BBC Singers in music about the creation of the world, by Copland, Byrd, Walton, and others. [BBC3]

  • Violinist Viktoria Mullova joins the Orchestre National de France, under Dima Slobodeniouk, for music of Brahms and Shostakovich. [RTBF]

  • Clarinetist Martin Fröst and the Danish National Symphony Orchestra, under Thomas Sondergaard, perform music by Sorensen, Fröst, Brahms, Hilborg, and Mozart. [France Musique]

  • Also hear Martin Fröst with the Academy of St Martin in the Fields, recorded at the Wigmore Hall in London, in music by Mozart, Schumann, and Brahms. [BBC3]

  • From Birmingham, the Heath Quartet plays music by Haydn, Janacek, and Dvorak. [BBC3]

  • Tomas Brauner leads the Prague Symphony in music by Martinu and Klusak. [ORF]

  • Baritone Georg Nigl and pianist Eric Schneider perform Schubert's Die Schöne Müllerin, recorded last month at the Théâtre de la Monnaie in Brussels. [RTBF]

  • The percussionists of the Orchestra National de France perform at the Présences Festival. [France Musique]

  • The vocal ensemble Calmus performs music from the 16th and 17th centuries at the Psalm-Festival in Graz last April. [ORF]

  • Pianist Madoka Fukami plays a recital at the Auditorium du Musée d'Orsay, with music by C.P.E. Bach, Debussy, and others. [France Musique]

  • From the Présences Festival, music by Charles Ives, Peter Lieberson, John Adams, and Esteban Benzecry performed by the Choeur and Maîtrise de Radio France and the Orchestre National de France under Giancarlo Guerrero. [France Musique]

  • Have another listen to the Metropolitan Opera broadcast of Tchaikovsky's Iolanta and Bartok's Duke Bluebeard's Castle, starring Anna Netrebko and Piotr Beczala. [France Musique]

  • Listen again to the broadcast of Verdi's Macbeth from the Metropolitan Opera, with Fabio Luisi conducting Zeljko Lucic (Macbeth), Anna Netrebko (Lady Macbeth), René Pape (Banco), and Joseph Calleja (Macduff). [ORF]


Arcal's 'Armida'

The operas of Haydn do not see many productions these days. One of them, Armida, has been mounted by an unusual troupe called Arcal, a national opera company that takes its stagings to small halls all around France. How could it make the magical detours of the story, not to mention its medieval religious sensibility, relevant to a modern audience? By shifting the action to our own time, director Mariame Clément has centered the story on a "war of ideals" involving an issue at the forefront of our society, marriage equality. Thierry Hillériteau has a report (Armida s'accorde à tous les genres, February 20) for Le Figaro (my translation):

Neither militancy nor demagoguery. Besides, Haydn's music, as sublime for Armida as for Renaud, never tends toward one camp or the other. It is rather a play on this question of gender common in opera, from Lully to Mozart. Strangely, this transposition that is at least opportunistic is revealed as effective: one soon forgets the context and enters into the story, that of two beings torn between duty and passion, faith and convictions. Above all, it offers the young singers a chance to give themselves over to a true dramatic conflict.

In the title role and in male dress, soprano Chantal Santon is without a doubt the principal revelation. More moving than terrifying, she reveals the beauty of a music as tragic as it is virtuosic and that does not merit the relative oblivion into which it has fallen. Juan Antonio Sanabria, with grand clarity of tone and conquering high notes, is no less deserving as a Rinaldo fallen pray to doubt. But it is especially in the pit that the saving resurrection of this Armida plays out, thanks to the limpid and incisive conducting of Julien Chauvin, first violin and cofounder of Le Cercle de l'Harmonie, who here strikes out on his own with his ensemble, Le Concert de la Loge Olympique.
The company takes this production next to Clermont-Ferrand (February 25 and 27), Cergy-Pontoise (March 5 and 7), and Niort (March 10).


Pintscher Debuts at NSO

To no one's surprise, the National Symphony Orchestra will not renew Christoph Eschenbach's contract as Music Director after the 2016-2017 season. The announcement came on the heels of more shocking podium news, principally that the New York Philharmonic and Alan Gilbert are parting ways at the same time as Eschenbach and the NSO. Speculation ran rampant on Twitter as to what conductors around the world might be on New York's short list, and many of the same names might be on the wish list of Deborah Rutter, the new president of the Kennedy Center since last September. Such speculation, as entertaining as it can be, is nothing more than that, but one can peruse the list of guest conductors who have appeared with the NSO in recent years, and those will appear in the near future, to form a possible list.

With that in mind, the NSO debut of young conductor Matthias Pintscher was thrown into sharp relief last night. The relatively young German is also a composer, whose works have been heard in Washington a fair amount in recent years and who was introduced to the NSO by none other than Christoph Eschenbach. Pintscher's music, to my ears, is hit and miss, with fine and interesting efforts like the Hérodiade-Fragmente, heard from the NSO in 2010, alongside the rather dull violin concerto, Mar'eh, given its North American premiere last night. Pintscher is a first-rate orchestrator, and the new piece teems with unexpected sounds, but a half-hour of scratches and wisps of sound, no matter how intriguing, is a burden to most ears. It is the sort of writing that can be a slog for orchestral musicians: as a musician friend once said, it is "the kind of piece where you rest for 57 bars and then click your key pads on an offbeat." Violinist Karen Gomyo, heard with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra a few years ago, is not on the same level as Julia Fischer, for whom the work was created, but was up to the challenges of the solo part.

Other Reviews:

Anne Midgette, At NSO, German composer leads French music — and his own (Washington Post, February 20)

Kate Molleson, BBCSSO/Pintscher review – ardour at arm’s length (The Guardian, December 5, 2014)

Anthony Tommasini, Philharmonic’s Contemporary Foray Ends, With a Promise of More (New York Times, June 8, 2014)
The rest of the program was devoted to late Romantic French music, a style that is a major influence on Pintscher's compositional voice. Pintscher serves as music director of the Ensemble Intercontemporain, the band that Pierre Boulez built, and has made his name as a contemporary specialist. At the podium in Fauré's suite of incidental music for Pelléas et Mélisande and Ravel's complete ballet score for Daphnis et Chloé, Pintscher helped to make some pretty, especially soft sounds but fell short of what one would hope for a music director in the canonical repertory.

In both pieces, different sections of the orchestra seemed at odds with each other here and there, especially in the irregular-meter sections of the Ravel, an ensemble deficiency that has to be attributed to Pintscher's beat, not always clear. (To hear music of this period at its best, go hear Charles Dutoit conduct examples by Debussy, Ravel, and Stravinsky with the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande tomorrow.) Individual contributions showed off the NSO's new-found strengths: silvery, low-set flute solos (including alto flute); strong oboe playing from both principal and associate principal players; the tremor-free sound of the horn in the Ravel. About sixty singers from the Washington Master Chorale did well with the thankless job of singing the wordless chorus parts, heard from offstage in the ballet as first choreographed by Michel Fokine (later also choreographed by Frederick Ashton).

This concert repeats tonight and tomorrow night, in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall.


Briefly Noted: Polyphonies Oubliées

available at Amazon
Polyphonies Oubliées, Ensemble Gilles Binchois, Maîtrise de Toulouse, D. Vellard

(released on January 13, 2015)
Aparte AP097 | 107'16"

[Listen on YouTube]
Fauxbourdon is a term that can refer specifically to a Burgundian practice of augmenting a melody with two polyphonic voices below it, first notated in the early 15th century. More generally, it can be taken to mean any polyphonic adornment of a cantus firmus, usually in simple homophony. This new two-CD set from the Ensemble Gilles Binchois offers an overview of arrangements of this kind, with examples from the sixteenth through nineteenth centuries, all in Latin (sung here with an unapologetic French pronunciation). It includes male-voice settings, sung by the ensemble's five men in various combinations, as well as examples for mixed voices, with the children's voices of the Maîtrise de Toulouse on the top part.

The texts featured are generally longer ones — the Ordinary of the Mass, psalms, canticles like the Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis, litanies, and hymns — and the settings often alternate between the chant alone and the polyphonic version. This underscores the free rhythm often implied in this kind of music, flexible and flowing like the chant it ornaments. Gregorio Allegri's setting of the Miserere is a famous, exceptionally ornamented version, flowing back and forth between chant-like declamation and metered rhythm. It takes some getting used to, but a choir, especially a small one, can learn to sing such polyphonic formulas in a beautifully unified way, shown in related traditions descended from the practice in the Orthodox and Anglican churches. The music selected here is mostly by unknown composers, with some examples from Marc-Antoine Charpentier, Claudin de Sermisy, Jean de Bournonville, François-Louis Perne, and Aloys Kunc -- the last was choir master at the Cathedral of Toulouse in the late 19th century, a nice connection. Saori Sato on organ and Bernard Fourtet on serpent (!) provide occasional instrumental support.


A Survey of Shostakovich Symphony Cycles

An Index of ionarts Discographies

Ed. 10/2023: Broken image were fixed and Wigglesworth actual set was added. Added Alto's "GREAT RUSSIAN CONDUCTORS" cycle at the bottom (since chronlogical listing doesn't make too much sense. For details of its contents (there, as elsewhere), mouse-over the image.

Ed. 01/2023: Many broken links were fixed and Wigglesworth actual set was added. Also added Rostropovich's latest re-release.

Ed. 01/2019: Just added the new Thomas(!) Sanderling cycle on Sony.

Ed. 01/2017: Just added the new Sladkovsky cycle on Melodiya.

Like the Beethoven Piano Sonata Cycle Survey, the Sibelius Symphony Cycle Survey, the Bruckner Cycle Survey, the Dvořák Symphony Cycle Survey, and the Bach Organ Cycle Survey, this is a mere inventory of what has been recorded and whether it is still available. Favorites are denoted with the “ionarts’ choice” graphic. A semi-interesting aside: Unlike with Bruckner or Sibelius cycles, there is no conductor who has recorded or even attempted two cycles of DSCH Symphonies. Valery Gergiev, who recorded the "War Symphonies" for Philips and is now heading towards a complete cycle on the Mariinsky Orchestra's own label [Ed.: and has just issued a DVD cycle recorded at Paris’ Salle Pleyel], comes closest... along with or after Rostropovich, now that I think of it, who recorded the whole cycle for Telarc and then repeated certain symphonies on the LSO Live label (the sister-label of the Mariinsky's).

The sets are listed in chronological order. If you can add or correct information, you are most welcome to do so. Where known, the earliest and last recording date (and some additional information, where deemed pertinent) are added in ‘mouseover’ text on the set’s image. Where sets are available in different editions, I have elected to list them where reasonable. For certain sets I have also made special lists that contain its individual releases. Sometimes this is the only way to still get one's hands on a cycle (Roshdevstvensky comes to mind), sometimes it might be easier that way to fill a gap. Sometimes it's just interesting to look at the covers. Comments are


Jerusalem Quartet in Charm City

available at Amazon
Schubert, Quartet ("Death and the Maiden"), Jerusalem Quartet
(Harmonia Mundi, 2008)

Charles T. Downey, Despite some weather delays, Jerusalem Quartet lights up Shriver (Washington Post, February 17)
The frigid cold may have kept some listeners home, but it did not deter the Jerusalem Quartet from playing at Shriver Hall on Sunday evening. The ensemble arrived in Baltimore only a short time before the concert, because of weather-related flight troubles, and the cellist, whose suitcase was lost, wore jeans — but when they played, all cares were forgotten.

Haydn’s “Rider” Quartet (op. 74/3) was ideally crisp and light in style... [Continue reading]
Jerusalem Quartet
Music by Haydn, Schulhoff, Schubert
Shriver Hall (Baltimore, Md.)

Tim Smith, Jerusalem Quartet makes Shriver Hall debut (Baltimore Sun, February 17)

Schumann with Alexander Melnikov | Shostakovich
Wolf Trap in 2012 | Library of Congress in 2007 (interrupted)
JCCGW in 2006 | Kennedy Center in 2005


Briefly Noted: Brautigam-Willens Mozart Piano Concerto Cycle

available at Amazon
Mozart, Piano Concertos 14/21, Ch'io mi scordi di te, R. Brautigam, C. Sampson, Die Kölner Akademie, M. A. Willens

(released on January 13, 2015)
BIS-2054 | 56'
Michael Alexander Willens is leading an excellent historically informed performance (HIP) cycle of Mozart's piano concerti, of which we have already noted two volumes. At the center of its success is the soloist, Ronald Brautigam, a Dutch fortepiano specialist who has released top-notch complete sonata cycles for Mozart and Beethoven. In the concertos Brautigam is playing on a reconstruction of a historically appropriate fortepiano by the American-born instrument builder Paul McNulty. In the latest installment, he adds two more concertos, K. 449 and K. 467, composed within about a year of each other. Brautigam plays Mozart's cadenzas in the former and devises his own for the latter, the latest in a long line of candidates aiming to replace those by Mozart, now lost, including Alfred Schnittke and Philip Glass.

This disc includes a lovely lagniappe, the concert aria Ch'io mi scordi di te?, K. 505, composed for the Vienna farewell concert of Nancy Storace, the English soprano who created the role of Susanna in Le Nozze di Figaro, in 1787. The orchestration for two clarinets, two bassoons, two horns, and strings is augmented by a part for solo keyboard, apparently intended for and played by Mozart at the premiere, making it indeed like a mini-piano concerto of sorts. The text, possibly by Lorenzo da Ponte and originally made for another aria inserted into the opera Idomeneo, seems to refer playfully in its new context to the impending separation of composer and soprano. The performances are all excellent, especially the solo work of soprano Carolyn Sampson and Brautigam, but also the full-bodied horns and trumpets of Die Kölner Akademie. If my favorite Mozart concerti remain those recorded by Christopher Hogwood and the Academy of Ancient Music, with Robert Levin improvising his own cadenzas at the fortepiano (incomplete and now hard to find -- please, Decca, you need to re-release a box set), this cycle is shaping up as a close second.


Perchance to Stream: Snow Squalls Edition

Here is your regular Sunday selection of links to online audio and online video from the week gone by. After clicking to an audio or video stream, you may need to press the "Play" button to start the broadcast. Some of these streams become unavailable after a few days.

  • Soprano Simone Kermes and mezzo-soprano Vivica Genaux perform with La Capella Gabetta at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées, under Andres Gabetta, in a program centered on the singers Francesca Cuzzoni and Faustina Bordoni. [France Musique]

  • Roberto Zarpellon leads his Ensemble "Lorenzo da Ponte" and soprano Francesca Lombardi Mazzulli in music of Vivaldi, Handel, and Corelli. [ORF]

  • Jonas Kaufmann and Eva-Maria Westbroek star in the production of Giordano's Andrea Chénier from Covent Garden. [Radio Clásica]

  • Soprano Diana Damrau joins conductor Gianandrea Noseda and the Orchestre de la Suisse romande for a program of Verdi arias, Strauss, and Stravinsky. [RTBF]

  • From the Bridgewater Hall in Manchester, Harry Christophers conducts The Sixteen in choral music by Harris, Weelkes, and others. [BBC3]

  • Listen to an all-Bach program performed by violinist Pablo Valetti and Café Zimmermann. [RTBF]

  • Simon Rattle leads the Berlin Philharmonic at the Royal Festival Hall in Mahler's second symphony and Helmut Lachenmann's Tableau. [BBC3]

  • Also listen to Simon Rattle's Sibelius symphony cycle with the Berlin Philharmonic. [BBC3]

  • From the Présences Festival, Paul Meyer join the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France for world premieres of music by C. Maldonado, A. Cheung, and L. Naon. [France Musique]

  • More from the Présences Festival, with James Gaffigan leading the Orchestre National de France and pianist Inon Barnatan in music by John Adams, Andrew Norman, Sean Shepherd, and Christopher Rouse. [France Musique]

  • Music by Latin-American composers, performed by the Ensemble Accroche-Note at the Présences Festival. [France Musique]

  • Music by Vivaldi and Kapsberger performed by countertenor Maarten Engeltjes and La sfera Armoniosa. [RTBF]

  • Hear lutenist Evangelina Mascardi perform music by Robert de Visée and Jacques de Saint-Luc, recorded last month at the Wiener Konzerthaus. [ORF]

  • A production of Nicolai's Merry Wives of Windsor, from the Opéra Royal de Wallonie in Liège. [RTBF]

  • Joshua Bell is soloist in Sibelius's violin concerto with Daniele Gatti and the Orchestre National de France. Don't miss his encore, Vieuxtemps's Souvenir d'Amérique sur Yankee Doodle. [RTBF]

  • From the Melbourne Recital Center, the Australian Octet perform works by Shostakovich, Brahms, Enescu, and a world premiere of Richard Mills' Lachrymae, Chorales and Postlude for Octet. [ABC Classic]

  • Bass Sir John Tomlinson joins the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Chorus for Brett Dean's The Last Day of Socrates and Beethoven's 8th Symphony, with John Storgards conducting. [BBC3]

  • Listen to a recital of French music performed by pianist Jean-Efflam Bavouzet at the Auditorium du Louvre, with pieces by Gabriel Pierné, Abel Decaux, Claude Debussy, Bruno Mantovani, Maurice Ravel, and Jules Massenet. [France Musique]

  • The Ardeo Quartet performs music by Mendelssohn, Bach, and François Meïmoun. [France Musique]

  • The Trio Eggner performs music by Clara Schumann, Gerrit Wunder, and Johannes Brahms. [RTBF]

  • Have another listen to the Metropolitan Opera broadcast of Tchaikovsky's Iolanta and Bartok's Duke Bluebeard's Castle, starring Anna Netrebko and Piotr Beczala. [ORF]

  • The Orquesta Sinfonica Simon Bolivar de Venezuela, under Gustavo Dudamel, perform music by Julian Orbon and Gustav Mahler at the Philharmonie de Paris. [France Musique]

  • More from Dudamel and the Simon Bolivar, playing Beethoven and Wagner at the Philharmonie de Paris. [France Musique]


Discovering Pēteris Vasks

available at Amazon
P. Vasks, Piano Trio / Piano Quartet, A. Levitan, Trio Parnassus
(Mdg, 2008)
Charles T. Downey, A composer lets his work do the talking
Washington Post, February 14
In the Leading European Composers series at the Phillips Collection, a composer has the opportunity to give a guided tour of his work. On Thursday evening, the podium was offered to the Latvian composer Pēteris Vasks, but he declined to speak before the concert, pointing to the stage and saying, “No — my music.” Rather than more words, a quintet of Latvian musicians beautifully performed the composer’s selection of his chamber music.

The music said more than enough about this composer’s intensely mystical style, recalling... [Continue reading]
RIX Piano Quartet and Dita Krenberga (flute)
Leading European Composers: Pēteris Vasks
Phillips Collection

Ionarts-at-Large: Bezuidenhout @ Mozart-Woche, Salzburg

available at Amazon
W.A.Mozart, Keyboard Works v.1,
Harmonia Mundi

available at Amazon
W.A.Mozart, Keyboard Works v.3,
Harmonia Mundi

available at Amazon
W.A.Mozart, Keyboard Works v.5, 6,
Harmonia Mundi

available at Amazon
W.A.Mozart, Keyboard Works v.7,
Harmonia Mundi

There are several (wrong) places to accidentally show up at a concert in beautiful Salzburg before getting it right. Let’s assume, hypothetically, that instinctively you showed up for the Kristian Bezuidenhout fortepiano recital (Mozart-Woche) at the Mozarteum Great Hall. But the place is empty You catch a nervous glimpse of the poster that points you in the direction of the Large University Auditorium. So you make your way through the Mirabell Garden to the Mozarteum University’s concrete concert hall cube, the “Solitär”. Wrong again! Wrong university, for starters. A friendly hint and a silent curse later (let’s continue to assume), you haste across the “Makartsteg” pedestrian bridge, through the passageways between and beneath the historic houses, popping out at the University Square, crossing into the Furtwängler Park, and this time be right at the bloody auditorium at last, with its raked stage and comfortable acoustics.*

Thank goodness Salzburg is small and swiftly traversed by foot and one can hit all of these potential venues and still show up in time for K.282 being gently trickled out of the Robert Braun copy of a Walter fortepiano by Bezuidenhout whose pianism in general – and within the niche of historically informed performance certainly – yields to no one. Delicate, never emaciating, he allowed the differences and advantages of the instrument to the modern grand piano come out while providing no cause to bemoan the absence of the latter (one of which stood just 10 feet behind him).

Bezuidenhout’s playing is, in short, beautiful to the point of immaculate and even an early and slighter sonata like K.282 becomes a thing of faint Mozartean wonder on a sunny day in snow-covered Salzburg. At the same time he is not one to get stuck at mere beauty and never—that I’ve heard him—prone to make Mozart sound facile. Lively wit, so much more readily at hand with a fortepiano and its quicksilver, pebbly short notes, came to the fore plenty in the subsequent movements. Really, the worst that can be said about Kristian Bezuidenhout as a pianist is that he’s got a big schnozzle.

While listening to the skilled fortepianist on a superior instrument, the famous Sonata K.330 – naturally performed faster on a fortepiano– is recalled by the brain as lumbering in comparison when played on the grand piano. (Listen to the very best interpreters and it turns out not to be the case, but that’s not the point.) With his plucky attack and translucent lyrical side, Bezuidenhout gave of his best. The last movement particularly brought out the rambunctious, the wilful side of Mozart – who combines angelic beauty with jibes against the expected norms with artless ease. Certain notes of his are such as though they could definitely only be played with the third finger.

The late sonatas in D major and B-flat majors K.576 and 570 equally embodied these qualities and furthered the impression of the fortepiano, well-built and well-played, is a fine thing, really. The fact that its slighter tone forces the audience in a relatively big hall such as the auditorium to strain its ears is, if anything, a benefit. The audience was treated, if memory serves right, to the Andante of K.545 as an encore, a movement that surprises with that slight twang of chromaticism (especially when the temperament isn’t entirely equal) just when you don’t expect it amid the lullaby-esque beauty. Whichever encore it was, it happened to be the same that Mitsuko Uchida played in her AM-recital earlier that day.

* The beautifully renovated auditorium – modern on the outside, historic on the inside; gutted and fitted with raked seating to seat 624 audience members. Only the view of the wall that is the de-facto back of the stage is ugly, with scuff marks, a fire door, and 12 now off-white power outlets (sockets?) glaring at the audience.